McKenna Peterson’s dad always encouraged her to find joy. While skiing waist-deep powder together throughout her youth, he’d remind her that it was okay to never fully grow up — to remain a kid forever. At least in part.
He believed in the power of having fun. Sure, work was important and responsibilities would come as a part of life, but he always encouraged McKenna to pursue endeavors that would put a smile on her face.
Splitting their time between Alaska, where they ran a fishing business, and Idaho, where they spent their winters skiing, the Petersons were passionate about living life to the fullest.
So, when her dad tragically passed away in a 2016 avalanche, McKenna took over the family’s fishing operation in Alaska, where she continues to station the same helm that her father once did.
In honor of her dad’s words — and in memory of how he lived his life — she grinds all summer in Alaska, saves money, and then takes the winter off to ski.
Work hard. Play hard. That’s the Peterson family motto.
The Toll of Working Hard and Playing Hard
Between captaining her family’s fishing vessel, the F/V Atlantis, and her job as a pro skier, Peterson has been living hard and playing hard for most of her adult life.
As with every top-tier athlete/tradesperson, the lifestyle has taken a toll. To remain strong, Peterson has to be mindful of how she maintains her health and fitness.
“My body has taken quite the beating,” she admitted. “It’s difficult to go from a summer of living in the confined space of a fishing boat to a winter of hard-charging mountain climbing and skiing. Yoga, a healthy diet, and making time for rest are the most important parts of my training routine.”
Over the years, she’s come to understand that sometimes the benefits of rest outweigh the benefits of hard physical training. Finding the balance can be difficult, so she makes it a point to listen to her body and give herself permission to take down time without self-judgment.
“Getting to this place of balance has been the key to longevity and being able to maintain my demanding schedule,” she continues.
Similarly, in her younger years, she was more eager to take on projects — often stretching herself thin.
These days, she’s much more choosy, putting an emphasis on personal value and self fulfillment over volume. Dialing back allows her to focus on what’s right in front of her and be more present with the things that matter.
“There are still times when it is hard to pass up opportunities,” she said, “but I know that I cannot do it all and would rather do a few things very well than do everything mediocre.”
Living Life Xtratuf
Growing up on the docks and fishing vessels of Southwest Alaska, Xtratuf Legacy Boots were a mainstay of her childhood and everyday life.
As young children, McKenna and her siblings called their Xtratuf fishing boots “Bubba Roots” (a play on “rubber boots”). And they still do.
So, when Xtratuf approached Peterson to become an ambassador, it was easy to say yes. She grew up in Xtratuf gear and continues to wear them every day, summer or winter. “Regardless of whether I am a brand partner or purchasing the Xtratufs as a consumer — I’m wearing them,” she said of the brand, “because they are real and authentic.”
Her favorite all-time pair? The 15” Legacy she wore for over a decade, ages 18-28. As she tells it, they’re worn in perfectly — and have seen countless days at sea, in ski resort parking lots, and après dive bars. For character, they’ve taken on a layered patina of salmon scales that she swears will never come off.SHOP XTRATUF BOOTS
“Those boots have character and are still fully functional,” she remembered of her well-loved Legacies. “I don’t wear them anymore, but will always keep them for the sentimental value and memories. I caught a lot of fish wearing these boots as a crew member on my dad’s boat; those were some great years.”
Finding Her Flow — From Freeride to Fishing
Peterson spends a lot of time in flow state. While it can be found in many different ways, for Peterson, it comes as a byproduct of surrendering completely to the moment. No thoughts or emotions, past or future — just the present.
Like many action sport athletes, McKenna often finds her flow while skiing. “When I am standing on top of a line, my heart is racing, my mind is moving fast,” she explained. “I feel a jumble of emotions — positive and negative. As soon as I push off and drop in, all of these hectic thoughts and emotions fade away.”
Unburdened by the weight of everyday life, flow state allows Peterson to shed her worries and exist in a state of transcendental bliss. “I move without thought and instinct takes over — this is flow,” she added. “This is where I feel most alive, most capable, and simply happy.”
But, perhaps surprisingly, she also reaches flow state while she’s on the job. Her specific discipline of fishing, purse seining, is fast-paced, dangerous, and requires her complete attention.
While working, she’s watching her gear, crew, weather conditions, and keeping tabs on what the fish are up to. With peril as part of the job description, there is no room for anything else. The rest of life fades away, and she is completely consumed by the moment.
“In order to be successful,” she said of her trade, “I have to fall into the rhythm of the ocean and the patterns of the fish. This feeling is very similar to what I feel when skiing a big line at high speeds. There is nothing other than what is right in front of me, my senses are heightened, and I am moving from instinct. This is why I love fishing; it brings me joy and a sense of purpose.”LIVE LIFE XTRATUF